THE DISAPPEARANCE (1977) Donald Sutherland is a hitman having a soulless emotional crisis, then his wife vanishes.

The Disappearance>Theme Song: During the opening titles there’s a screen credit for “The Last Embrace” by Craig Huntley as the theme song. I think this is it:


There’s also a soundtrack credit to Robert Farnon during the same credits, so I’m sort of confused. Regardless, there’s some heavy synth-riffage going on. I tried to find a different “theme song” sounding song to help clarify the issue, but I couldn’t figure it out.

Interesting Dated References: Waking up startled from a dream and immediately lighting a cigarette, then waking up your wife so she can fix you a drink from the full drink cart setup in the bedroom, then proceeding to have like six cocktails and not even worrying about the morning.

Best Line: “I want to help you, but I would prefer to strangle you,” said by man to wife.

Social Context: There’s some really existential shit going on here. Almost every word out of Donald Sutherland’s mouth is about how empty his life is or the inevitability of death. It’s pretty bleak. I’m not sure if that bleakness is attributable to Derek Marlowe’s novel upon which the movie was based, or some other scriptwriter sprinkling in his hippie-far-out ideologies. Regardless, it’s fucking dreary.

Summary: The Disappearance starts out all slow and quiet. Our protagonist hitman, Jay Mallory (played by Donald Sutherland), stalks and shoots some guy with a mustache. Just to clarify, he’s not shooting him because of the mustache.

The Dissappearance

Once home, he sits and talks with his wife in their dimly lit apartment featuring solid black kitchen tile, and holy shit the unbelievably depressing shit coming out of this guy’s mouth. The gist of it is that their marriage is very strained. Mallory seems to think his wife is crazy and she accuses him of talking to psychiatrists.

The Dissappearance

Next up, he and his wife (played by Sutherland’s real-life wife Francine Racette) go to some fancy ball and he does another killing. Later that night, Mallory awakes from a bad dream and he and his wife cuddle while he talks about being sick of life, wanting to die, etc. You know, normal late night pillow-talk.

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The reason their apartment is so dimly lit and awesome is because it turns out they live in Montreal’s Brutalist structure Habitat 67. That place is cool looking and I think this might be the only movie with extensive interior shots of it from the 70s.

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So the next day Mallory returns home to find his wife gone, then he has non-acid induced flashbacks about his wife saying she was going to leave him. As a show of emotion, he wanders around the house breaking full glasses of whiskey on the ground.

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Burbank (David Warner of Straw Dogs) arrives the next morning. He’s the guy who arranges each hit (or, “shy,” as they are calling it) and demands Mallory perform a “shy” for which he already accepted a cash advance.

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Then a guy names Jeffries (Peter Bowles) replaces Burbank and demands Mallory go to London to perform the “shy.” The whole time he gets suspicious because none will tell him who the fuck he is supposed to be killing.

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Before leaving for London, Mallory goes to visit his wife’s ex-husband played by David Hemmings, who also was aboard as producer for this movie. Hemmings tells him about his wife and some guy (in London) named Deverell who she was in love with. So for the last 30 minutes, the movie has just been Sutherland slowly visiting various British actors and shots of landscapes.

Once in London, Mallory creeps around looking for Deverell and his wife, all the while awaiting instructions about the hit he is supposed to perform. A new British spy, Atkinson (John Hurt of King Ralph fame), follows Mallory around a bunch.

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He arrives at this big old house and chats with Deverell’s wife. While there, he gets a call from Atkinson (on the house line), informing him the “shy” he has to perform is on Deverell. This is supposed to be shocking, but overall the movie lacks the type of steam that makes a reveal like this exciting.

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Late that night Sutherland proceeds to break-in and creep around the house in order to perform the hit. Deverell (Christopher Plummer) confronts him and reveals he is the boss man who arranges all the hits, so not only is he banging Mallory’s wife, but he’s also his employer. Then Mallory stabs him.

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When Mallory returns home to his awesome apartment complex, he finds his wife awesomely naked in the tub ready to make love. Remember when it was the 70s and it was totally acceptable and awesome for women to have small racks? I wasn’t born yet but I know that it was awesome and as a society we should get back to that. During the course of the love making she tells him she hired him to kill Deverell because she hated him and didn’t want to see him anymore.

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In the morning, Mallory goes out to breakfast to celebrate his relief over the fact that his wife is done having affairs and they can back to living happily in his awesome apartment complex. On the way back he is shot in the Corn Flakes by an unknown assailant. The end.

The Dissappearance

The Disappearance has a lot of good 70s movie elements focusing on character development. It’s certainly slow, and it’s certainly bleak, but something engaging is missing. I’m not sure what that is, but I’ll blame it on the fact that the original movie was 100 minutes and this home video print (and all subsequent releases) have edited the movie down to 80 minutes.

Poster and Box Art: This is a well-illustrated poster. The composition is interesting, but there’s something a little bit off about it. Much like the movie, it almost looks like something was edited out of the art, or some last minute changes prevented the artist from finishing it.

Availability: The Disappearance is out-of-print, although there do appear to be some DVD copies on ebay. Otherwise, dust off your VHS and score a used tape.

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